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John Templeton

///  You lived in the famous southern music scene that Disco Donnie held a firm grasp of. Can you tell us what his productions were like?  ///

I attended college in Jackson, Mississippi from 2000 - 2003. There wasn’t much going on in Jackson, so I would usually drive with friends to New Orleans to attend parties while in college. By the time I started going to raves in New Orleans, things were already on the downslope. One thing I can always remember other kids telling me was, “Oh, you missed it when it was huge”. I guess that peak was from 1997 to very early 2000. My first rave was October of 2000 and by that time, the bubble had already burst for Disco Donnie. That being said, their crew was still doing parties, many of them quite successful and back at the State Palace Theater on Canal Street. For me, I didn’t know what it was like in the “good old days” but some of those parties at State Palace in 2001 and 2002 were quite impressive: 5-6 headliners on the lineup, $35-50 ticket prices at the door, a proper jungle room with 2-3 heavy hitters, and the main room of State Palace was gigantic: 6,000-7,000 person capacity with a proper mezzanine and balcony. It was the real deal.


///  During that time, was there more underground events going on besides DD’s productions?  ///

There was a small club in New Orleans called, Ampersand. It was quite close to State Palace Theater in downtown and was an old bank turned into a club. Ampersand was actually a cool little club where the DJ booth was on the second floor over looking the dance floor. You couldn’t really see the DJ up there, so it gave the club a less pretentious feel, than the way clubs have evolved now where the DJ is on a stage to be glorified like a band. Ampersand had that old-school NYC and Chicago club-style DJ booth of the 1970s and 80s where the DJ was almost hidden. Looking back, I didn’t appreciate it at the time, but it was definitely a cool thing. But honestly, and to answer your question fairly, New Orleans didn’t have an underground scene that I could find or was part of. I’m sure it existed to some extent, but Disco Donnie’s parties were accessible; Ampersand was accessible; and therefore, I didn’t need to search out for the underground. Moreover, New Orleans is a 24-hour town, and someone visiting the city doesn’t need to try very hard to see music until sunrise, and as cool as that is, I think it has inhibited the growth of a more recognizable, organic electronic music scene.


///  Beta and Beatport were born while you were here, how has it changed the scene here?  ///

I knew several people who had very solid full-time jobs in the music business because of Beatport, and for that, I’m always thankful and grateful. Beatport and SFX have become convenient examples of the rise and fall, and burst of the EDM bubble, but Beatport also kept many labels afloat for years when vinyl was struggling. I can remember Perc telling me when he played here in 2010 that Beatport absolutely kept his label, PercTrax, afloat when vinyl sales plummeted in the mid-2000s due to the digital revolution. Beyond just labels, however, it was important that Beatport was providing real jobs with proper benefits for many of my friends. A lot of the work was not glamorous, but it was a real chance to work in the music industry and a few have fortunately moved to other companies across the music business. As far as changing the scene directly in Denver, I don’t really see how that happened. Yes, there was the Beatport Lounge at Beta, but it was that in name, not in curation. I absolutely tried my hardest to get Beatport to be a sponsor for my defunct festival, GATF, but they would never bite. That was disheartening at the time, but now seeing the hardships the company has gone through over the last two years, definitely makes me understand why they couldn’t spend that kind of capital on our little festival.

 

///  How did Beta change or not change the SoCo clubs empire?  ///

Beta was absolutely crucial in changing the club culture in Denver, for better or worse. When I moved to Colorado in 2003, all of the notable clubs were owned by one company: The Church, Vinyl, Funky Buddha and Bar Standard (it was under another name back them, but still, same owners). It was essentially a monopoly and Brad Roulier, who was is the owner and founder of Beta, was the talent booker for SoClubs back at the time. Brad eventually split away from SoClubs to create Beta, but it was an incredibly messy break and which ended up in Regas Christou, the owner of SoClubs, suing Brad in civil court alleging that Beta had a monopoly (http://www.denverpost.com/2010/12/02/denver-nightclub-owner-sues-a-rival/). The case went to court and ended with a jury ruling in favor of Roulier in 2013 (http://www.westword.com/music/regas-christou-vs-brad-roulier-of-beta-jury-rules-in-favor-of-roulier-no-damages-awarded-5700320).  I think we all found it quite astounding that a man who owned five or six clubs could claim that a man that owned one club had a monopoly, but somehow it still went to court. Regardless of what some people may say about Beta or Brad, it’s a good thing for the dance music community in Denver that the ruling was in his favor

 

///  What is your opinion of EDM and its impacts on techno specifically in our country?  ///

Honestly, I am fine with EDM. Again, it’s a convenient “boogie man” like Beatport for everything that is wrong with dance music in America, but it’s just a catch term for popular dance music. Have I seen the numbers come over to techno that I expected by now? No, and while that’s a bit disappointing, it’s not unexpected. Techno struggles in the United States for a variety of reasons, but the popularity of EDM is not quite one of them.

 

///  Can you tell us of any other small techno pockets in the USA that might not be covered as widely as Seattle, LA-Cali, Iowa, Minneapolis, Detroit, Chicago, Pittsburg, NYC?  ///

I’ve always had a great time playing in Dallas, as they have a solid scene with educated fans that come out to the shows. I find they can trainspot my records with the best of them. Austin as well has a really good little thing happening, so I think you can lump Texas as a whole and say they are doing well. Texas has a bad stigma for some people, but I find the big cities there to be great little hubs for techno and dance music in general. There’s a small crew in Knoxville, Tennessee called Teknox, and they have a cool party and are affiliated with the Tennessee label, Proper Trax, a very solid vinyl label. I have yet to play there, but I’ve heard good things about what’s going on in Columbus, Ohio and that Cleveland is getting some stuff going again, so that’s good to hear. For the most part though, New York and LA are where it’s at. If you want to find great techno, experimental, house, EBM, then just pick a weekend. It’s really insane the sheer volume of events going on in both cities now.

(Editors note: see also Midwest Fresh, Signal Noise, Strange Allure)

 

///  You visit Europe quite often, have you seen any changes over the last years concerning techno?  ///

Europe, for the most part, has been pretty consistent as far as the club scene. However, Berlin has changed quite a bit. There are many people more qualified to talk about this than me, but from my experience, I have noticed that Berlin is turning into the Las Vegas of Europe. Granted, it couldn’t be any more different than Vegas, but their similarities are starting to line up. Berlin has turned into the “party city” for Europe. It’s the city where young Italians and English kids fly in for the weekend and party from Friday to Monday and then fly home, drunk on the plane, without any sleep. Sounds fun, but it’s also entirely taxing when I’m walking across the Warschauer Strasse bridge in Berlin and am getting bumped into by thousands of idiot kids who are techno tourists for the weekend. Also keep in mind that in Europe, clubs allow people in at 18 years old, so there’s a significantly higher number of 18-21 year olds in the queues, in the clubs, at the bar, and as much as we complain about the high drinking age in the United States, I find it a blessing, especially when compared to this problem in Europe. I could go on, but yeah, Berlin is just turning into this obnoxious techno tourist destination and clubs like Tresor are much worse as a result. I’m not saying that Berlin is still not an amazing place because it is, but you do have to be prepared mentally for the numbers of people who are there now.


///  Do you perform with controllers, sticks, vinyl?  ///

I usually play with turntables plus CD players so I can have some flexibility of going vinyl to digital in any way, however, it’s tough playing on turntables these days, as I never know what to expect with various setups. I love to play on three turntables, but that’s a tall order to request for a tech rider in 2017, so it’s usually two turntables and two CDJs.

 

///  You have been running events for some time now. Are you going to continue into the future? If so, what plans do you have in store?  ///

That’s a tough question to answer. I don’t think I’ll ever completely stop doing parties, but I’m not in a hurry to plan anything at the moment. We have the free, third Fridays monthly in the Lounge at the Black Box, which I’m doing with Paul Fleetwood and Steven Dermody. We’ll ride that for a little bit, but I don’t have bigger plans. It’ s time for some younger, new crews and promoters to have their time to influence this city and state. Truth be told, I was never a very good promoter in the first place and did it for primarily selfish reasons: I wanted to book my friends, I wanted to see certain talent that knew wouldn’t be in Colorado unless I did something. I always wanted to play and show off my projects. Those really aren’t the best reasons to be a promoter and that’s certainly a part of the reason why I was never a very successful one.


///  You have mentioned in previous interviews that you like receiving constructive criticism on your events, over the years, what trends have you seen?  ///

The main trend was that we had less and less people coming to our parties! That was pretty obvious, not just by the finances, but visually, I could see that I was losing my audience. I just refused to book someone because the audience wanted it. Sadly, the DJs or artists I wanted and liked, didn’t really correlate to what this community wants to hear. I should have been smarter and acquiesced more to the wants of our audience; maybe done one act that I want, and then one act that’s more “crowd-friendly.” I just wouldn’t budge and it ended up costing me in the long run. Moreover, I couldn’t keep my staff together. It kept changing year after year, and a lot of that was due to my shortcomings as a leader and organizer.

 

///  How has the city of Denver been when organizing GATF?  ///

We rarely had to deal with the city except for when getting permits for our park parties at Skyline Park at 16th and Arapahoe Streets downtown. That was pretty trying the first year, but I had two people: Jackie Specht and Matthew Swank, who really did the hard leg work and lifting when dealing with the city. That was a huge help and major catalyst for being able to do that again in 2013 even though Jackie and Matt were no longer with the festival. They laid the template for dealing with city and acquiring the necessary permits.

 

/// Recently our local legislator’s held a hearing on keeping bars open later than 2 AM. The regular players of: police enforcement, MADD, aspiring political candidates and even the local mini-city Glendale showed up. The only representatives of the night community that showed up were a restaurant owner that did not want open hours, and Trax Nightclub supporting the bill. Soco clubs and Beta did not even show up, nor was there other nightclub support. Can you give any insight into why this happened? ///

The argument given by many club owners in this city is that they will not make more money by having extended bar hours, that they will in fact, lose money. So it’s not surprising that Beta and SoClubs didn’t show up. The main reason for all of this is that the dance music scene is completely fractured. Underground people have an issue with EDM and pop music. Techno hates House, and dubstep hates everything that’s not jungle or drum n bass. Nobody in this scene works well together. Pride, ego, selfishness, small penises, the list can go on for why people can’t work together and I’m just as guilty as anyone. I haven’t enjoyed or had a pleasurable experience working with many people, so I tend to not want to work with a lot of crews or clubs. Dance music is a tiny community fighting for the scraps left at the dinner table and yet there’s more infighting and bemoaning amongst each other than unifying to fight for something we should agree on regardless of genre like extended bar hours. But nope, we can’t organize. Even in techno, a tiny sub-genre in all of this, and it’s more fractured than ever on a local level and on a national scene, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

 

///  Will you leave our fair city for LA / NYC or Berlin in the future?  ///

I was really planning on moving Berlin about two years ago. However, I met my wife, Alena, in Detroit over Movement weekend in 2015 and that began to change things for me. Berlin was put on the back burner and the decision was then for me to move to New York, where Alena was living, or for her to move to Colorado. We weighed the pros and cons to both, but agreed that it would be easier for us to make our relationship work in Colorado without the hassles and financial strain of living in New York. We were married in August of 2016 and still live in Denver with no plans to move away anytime soon!

 

Other Templeton Interviews:

https://mnmt.no/scene/2016-us-techno-piece/

https://soundcloud.com/btsunami/talestunes-podcast_episode-ii_john-templeton

https://www.residentadvisor.net/podcast-episode.aspx?exchange=246

 

Resources:

Disco Donnie:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J28Y-L_nJIw